Although most Indonesians living on the island of Java are now Muslim, the inhabitants were once mainly Hindu and Buddhist, as evidenced by two of its spectacular temple complexes. Borobudur is the more famous of the two, as it is the world’s largest Buddhist monument, but Prambanan is no less beautiful and inspiring. Both were built by kings, completed in the 9th century, and rediscovered after a thousand years. Restored and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the two temples are accessible from the city of Yogyakarta.
Much of present-day Borobudur is the result of restorations carried out in the 20th century.
Although Prambanan is a Hindu temple, there are Buddhist temples within its compound, with a total of 508 stone temples.
Borobudur has hidden panels under its base, which illustrate the law of karma.
Earthquakes have been damaging the temples for centuries.
The large banyan tree next to Mendut Temple.
Borobudur remains popular as a tourist attraction and pilgrimage site.
East of Borobudur is the temple of Mendut, built earlier in the 9th century by the Sailendra dynasty.
Aside from the 16 temples in Prambanan’s inner square, there are over 200 temples within its boundaries.
As there is little shade in the complex, it is best to bring an umbrella and to keep hydrated on your visit.
Borobudur is made of a volcanic stone called andesite.
There are 72 stupas on the top platform, each containing a statue of the Buddha.
Borobudur has 2,670 narrative and decorative panels combined.
Carvings and reliefs are also plentiful around Prambanan, a masterpiece of Javanese classical architecture.
Visitors are lent a sarong to wear as a sign of respect for the holy site.
Visitors to Prambanan are required to wear hard hats for some structures as a safety precaution.
Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in Java and its Shiva temple is 47m high.
Prambanan is associated with the legend of Rara Jonggrang, who is said to have asked her suitor to built 1,000 temples. Upon tricking him, he turned her into stone as the 1,000th temple.
Water drainage spouts are also carved to match its surroundings.
Today, the entrance to Borobudur is lush with greenery.
Each of the 504 Buddha statues in Borobudur is in one of 6 mudras or hand gestures.
Prambanan, also known as Candi Rara Jonggrang, is dedicated to the Hindu deities Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.
The view at the top platform is made more beautiful by the surrounding mountains.
The top platform of Borobudur has three stages of stupas, including these with diamond-shaped lattice.